Family Court judge criticises cohabitation laws

A top Family Court judge has said the laws governing cohabitation need to be desperately changed.

Sir James Munby also criticised the rules surrounding no-fault divorce, financial relief after divorce, access to family justice and domestic abuse in a recent speech at the Law School of the University of Edinburgh.

“The frequency of the occasions on which the problem has been considered by the House of Lords and, more recently, the Supreme Court over the best part of 50 years, has demonstrated that, whatever the degree of judicial ingenuity, neither the common law nor equity is capable of producing an effective remedy,” he said, speaking on cohabitation laws.

“Reform is desperately needed.”

Under current laws, if a marriage or civil partnership breaks down, the court has the power to redistribute assets between parties. But these rights do not extend to cohabitants, no matter how long the relationship has lasted and if there are any children involved.

“This is an injustice which has been recognised almost as long as I have been in the law,” said Sir Munby.

As unmarried couples have no legal protection, it is recommended to come to an agreement over finances before making large purchases, such as a house or car, so if the relationship does break down, there is less need for extended arguments.

A cohabitation agreement is the only way to draw this up effectively. This will dictate how the shares in the property and any other assets should be split between both parties.

If you are a cohabitee and would like further information on how we can protect your assets, please get in touch.


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Alison Green
Alison joined Mackrell Turner Garrett in 1989 and qualified as a solicitor in 1991, becoming a partner in the firm in 2010. Her expertise covers matrimonial work, including divorce and the associated financial and children issues; pre and post-nuptial agreements; co-habitation disputes; civil partnership agreements and the breakdown of civil partnerships.